Saturday, August 20, 2016

Biblical Slavery For Foreigners Part II


In the ongoing question about whether the Bible condones human slavery, Christian apologists have come up with many ways to try and explain that it doesn't. One Christian is Glenn Miller, who wrote a piece on the Christian Think Tank website on slavery in the Bible arguing this point. To properly answer this question, one should ask whether Mosaic law allowed foreigners in Israel to be legally kept in conditions amounting to slavery.

So what is slavery? Slavery has many definitions. For example:

1. The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner's control, especially in involuntary servitude.
2. (Law) the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
3. The subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work

All of these paint a situation one could properly call slavery. Interestingly, to be a slave does not require it to be based on race or ethnicity, and it does not have to be life long. Someone forced into servitude and labor for a finite amount of time can still be considered a slave during the time they are forced. I mention this because many Christian apologists are quick to point out that biblical slavery was not exactly like slavery in the Antebellum South. That may be so, but that doesn't mean biblical slavery wasn't slavery. In the Old Testament, Mosaic law describes how foreigners (non-Hebrews) could be forcefully taken as slaves by being acquired by war (Deut. 20:12-14) and foreign slaves could be kept for life (Lev 25:44-46). While the servitude forced upon prisoners convicted of just crimes is not generally considered slavery, this didn't apply to the people the Bible mentions were forced into servitude. So at least two conditions have to be met in order to properly be called slavery: (1) The person has to be forced into the position against their will, and (2) the person has to be made to perform some kind of labor, and paid nothing or next to nothing, for a certain amount of time, up to life. Now, we can endlessly split hairs over exactly what's "force" (does verbal intimidation or coercion count as force?), but it's not necessary now, as clearly being threatened with death at the end of a sword counts as force.

iconI made a post a while back called Biblical Slavery for Foreigners where I quote from A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, a scholarly work that mentions the allowance of forced lifelong slavery for foreigners in ancient Israel. Miller's article references my source 21 times but when he quotes from it he often is quoting from slave systems of other non-Hebrew cultures. For example, his citation of page 449 references Assyrian slavery. Page 585 references Mesopotamian uses of slavery. Page 664 references Emar, part of Anatolia and the Levant. Page 741 refers to Canaanite culture. And page 199 refers to Mesopotamian culture again. None of these references refer to Hebrew culture and law which is the very thing in question. We're not debating what the Sumerians did or the Hittites did. We're debating what the Israelites did because Christians believe their law came from Yahweh—the one true god, and many Christians today are still claiming this god — and only this god — grounds morality. That's what the debate is about. And all these points Miller makes that slavery was sometimes (or even often) an economic need is totally irrelevant. No one denies that indentured servitude existed in the ANE. When debating whether the Bible condones slavery we're having an in principle argument here: did Mosaic law condone forced servitude that could last for life under any circumstances? Yes or no? That is the issue. Showing that most slavery was voluntary indentured servitude in the ANE is totally irrelevant.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Great Lecture By Jonathan Haidt On Politics, Morality, And Psychology


I just watched this and I thought it was good enough to post. I'm taking the day off to go to a birthday party. It's David Silverman's 50 birthday. He's a president of American Atheists. Should be fun. Please enjoy this video and learn from it. We all — liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans, independents and libertarians, religious and non-religious alike — need to get better on how we evaluate ourselves and our views.

Monday, August 8, 2016

10 Questions For A Christian



Editor's note: For some reason I wrote this blog post years ago but then apparently never published it. Well, better late than never. Here are 10 (or so) questions I have for any Christian who thinks Christianity is the truth and wants me to agree. Or just 10 questions for Christians in general. Not every question applies to every type of Christian. Some of them are aimed at a more general Christian theology, so if you're a Christian and feel a question doesn't apply to you, just ignore it or offer your alternative view. These also aren't intended to be the most difficult to ask a Christian, some of them are just out of curiosity.


  1. Do you think it's immoral just being an atheist, or being a proponent of atheism?
    • If yes, is being an atheist more immoral than being a murderer or a rapist?
    • Hypothetically speaking, would you rather have your daughter to date or marry an atheist or a god-believing rapist/murderer?
  2. Do you personally think atheists deserve to be tortured in hell forever just by being atheists?
  3. Would you rather live in a universe where atheism is true or where Islam is true? 
  4. Would you rather see a future US population that is mostly secular and atheist or mostly Islamic? What about for Europe and the entire world?
  5. Is there anything about your religion that you feel personally makes no logical sense or is emotionally disturbing or especially cruel, or does everything about your religion make perfect sense to you?
  6. What sufficient reasons exist for why god set things up as he did? Why create an unimaginably large universe so that we could exist on one tiny planet, where god would reveal himself to select people in one region of the earth who were ignorant of science and who lived in cultures permeated with superstition, and whose job god decided it would be to pass on his message through word-of-mouth so that the rest of the world would have to just take it on faith while thousands of alternative faiths would compete with it so that god could eternally punish anyone who didn't accept it? Can this plan be morally justified? (Note here that "eternally punish" doesn't have to be torture, but could mean just the eternal separation of god.)
  7. How does one expect to exist eternally without going mad? In other words, if heaven exists where you will live eternally, what can you possibly do forever to keep you occupied? What would be the point of living? Most people's lives are motivated by searching for truth, or to improve their lives and the lives of others, but if in heaven no one needs help and there are no problems to be solved and no truths to be known, what would motivate a person to live eternally? Is god's love really enough for eternity? It seems to me that the only way this can be plausible would be if we're stripped of our personalities and turned into robots. 
  8. If god's commandments constitute our moral duties and what is right and wrong and you think they are not arbitrarily decided, they must then be in accordance with what positively benefits human beings such as love, compassion, and empathy. If this is so, wouldn't these things also be objectively good in the absence of god? If not, please explain why.
  9. If god is intrinsically perfect and holy why does the biblical god have an extreme jealousy complex? Since jealously is not a characteristic we consider virtuous it would seem incompatible with perfection that god would demand to be worshiped at all, let alone have beings tortured eternally or annihilated for not worshiping him. Can this be morally and logically justified?
  10. Finally, if god does not exist, would you seriously feel that you no longer have a purpose in life or a reason to live or be moral? And can you understand that many of us are capable of living moral and fulfilling lives without god or religion?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Conservatives Have A Point


Growing up in the inner city, the culture that surrounded me in my adolescent years despised intelligence. Ignorance was celebrated as a virtue; it was something to be commended, something to aspire to. I remember back in school dumbing myself down in order to fit in with my peers by pretending to be stupid and not knowing the answers to the questions my teachers asked, when in fact I really did. Thinking back on this reminds me of the conservatives who say that the problems of the inner city, and the black community in particular, are due to culture and not racism. For a while I dismissed that argument, but I've changed my mind. I think conservatives do have a point on this.

Now let me first set the record straight. I am technically a liberal, although I'm beginning to hate labels more and more, especially when it comes to politics. I am a liberal—but—I definitely don't think liberals have all the right answers. They are not 100 percent right on 100 percent of the issues. That's far from the case. We must divorce ourselves from the increasingly tribal mentalities on the political spectrum. We must be willing to listen to the other side, and seek out the best criticism of our own political identifications. And we must put reason and evidence first and foremost over and above everything else, especially when it disagrees with our politics.

On the ongoing problems in America's inner cities with rising crime and stagnant poverty I think that it is undeniably true that culture is at least a part of the problem. You see, what conservatives typically do is they blame all the problems in the inner city on culture, and what liberals typically do is they blame all the problems in the inner city on racism. But as I see it, both of them are partially right. Yes — racism, the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws, the predatory lending practices of banks, and many other discriminatory policies have left a negative imprint on African Americans. And yes it is also true that many racist policies have hurt Latino Americans and to a lesser degree some Asian Americans. But that isn't the full answer of why these groups still struggle with poverty, violent crime, and high unemployment and incarceration rates. Culture matters. When you have a culture that nurtures and embraces ignorance as if it was a virtue, treats women like pieces of shit, and thinks that resorting to violence in order to solve your problems is acceptable, what the fuck do you think is going to happen? Do you think a culture like that is going to create brilliant thinkers, scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs peacefully coexisting in safe, clean neighborhoods? No! You're going to create a culture full of high school dropouts, thugs, criminals, single mothers and absentee fathers, and low skilled wage earners who stay in poverty generation after generation via perpetual bad decision making.

Now you might argue that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and other racist policies helped create this culture that celebrates apathy and ignorance as virtues. Fine. I'd agree with you. But that's not in any way a refutation that culture is an important reason why so many minorities in the inner cities across America are committing crimes at much higher rates than the rest of the country and continue to be in poverty generation after generation.

We must cultivate a culture that celebrates and nurtures science and philosophy and reason and facts and the thirst for knowledge and truth. We must also cultivate a culture where we seek to minimize unnecessary suffering, and where we care about the well being of others. It is imperative that we do this in order to resolve the negative issues plaguing inner city minority communities for generations. I want being smart to be cool again. Make that something kids want to aspire to. I want this stupid culture of ignorance to go away once and for all and to be mocked and humiliated into extinction, in much the same way I think should happen to religion. That won't be easy, but it can happen. Here's how:

My Favorite Hitchens Quote



In Letters to a Young Contrarian, Hitchens wrote what has become my favorite quote from him:

"Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence."

It made me think of my life so far and how during much of its duration I regretfully kept silent. I used to be very shy when I was younger. I rarely, if ever, spoke up in public. I'd usually sit in my chair in school, emotionless and timid, afraid to talk to anyone. I had no confidence in who I was. I couldn't make friends. I couldn't talk to girls. I'd keep my opinions all to myself, afraid I'd be mocked by my peers for exposing what they were. The interests that I had, like science and history, were simply not "cool" in the culture I grew up in and I suppressed my knowledge of them, thereby suppressing the main source of confidence available to me.

Then I got older. Towards the very end of high school and into college I began to break free from my cocoon. With some luck I made friends. I started to speak up in class and offer my opinion. I took several public speaking courses that greatly helped my ability to speak in front of audiences. At times I got really good at it, becoming the most outspoken person in the class. In fact, in one professional development class in college, my professor called me the best student in the class. I had achieved this by showing off all my knowledge of history and philosophy, which greatly impressed him. I had finally, right around that time, "found myself" so to speak.

Today I am very comfortable in my skin. I like who I am. I like my personality. I like my interests. I like my sense of humor. I am very outspoken now. Hitchens' quote further inspires me to not stay silent. When it comes to philosophy and politics I cannot even imagine being shy about them at this point in my life. There will be an infinite amount of time after I'm dead when I'm not going to be saying or writing shit. During this finite amount of time I have in this universe it is absolutely imperative that I be heard so that there's at least a chance that my views will makes waves. That's why I can never stay silent. Not anymore. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Why ISIS Fights & Hates Us



Today's quote comes from the latest issue of ISIS's very own publication Dabiq. To those out there who still insist that ISIS is the result of purely socio-economic reasons and/or motivated by Western foreign policy that has nothing to do with the religion of Islam, I give you an article shutting that view down right from the source. It's entitled, "Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You" and in it ISIS explains exactly why they fight and hate us and (spoiler alert!) it's first and foremost due to their religion of Islam. They hate our secular, disbelieving, gay-enabling lands of freedom and sodomy, where we let criticism of Islam and their pedophile prophet Mohammad be tolerated. They will not rest in hating and fighting us until we convert to Islam or submit to Islamic rule under dhimmi status and pay the jizyah. All of us. Only a temporary cease fire is the best we can ever hope for in terms of "peace." That's why ISIS needs to be wiped off the face of the earth and every last one of them is destroyed. And their ideology and religion need to be utterly refuted into extinction so that it never comes back.

Here are their top 3 reasons why they hate and fight us.

1. We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4). Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims. Thus, even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming our campaigns against you. Apart from the option of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks. So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to our war against you. At most, you could only delay it temporarily. “And fight them until there is no fitnah [paganism] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (Al-Baqarah 193).
2. We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted, a matter that doesn’t concern you because you separate between religion and state, thereby granting supreme authority to your whims and desires via the legislators you vote into power. In doing so, you desire to rob Allah of His right to be obeyed and you wish to usurp that right for yourselves. “Legislation is not but for Allah” (Yusuf 40). Your secular liberalism has led you to tolerate and even support “gay rights,” to allow alcohol, drugs, fornication, gambling, and usury to become widespread, and to encourage the people to mock those who denounce these filthy sins and vices. As such, we wage war against you to stop you from spreading your disbelief and debauchery – your secularism and nationalism, your perverted liberal values, your Christianity and atheism – and all the depravity and corruption they entail. You’ve made it your mission to “liberate” Muslim societies; we’ve made it our mission to fight off your influence and protect mankind from your misguided concepts and your deviant way of life. 
3. In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage war against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator. You witness the extraordinarily complex makeup of created beings, and the astonishing and inexplicably precise physical laws that govern the entire universe, but insist that they all came about through randomness and that one should be faulted, mocked, and ostracized for recognizing that the astonishing signs we witness day after day are the creation of the Wise, All-Knowing Creator and not the result of accidental occurrence. “Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]?” (AtTur 35). Your disbelief in your Creator further leads you to deny the Day of Judgment, claiming that “you only live once.” “Those who disbelieve have claimed that they will never be resurrected. Say, ‘Yes, by my Lord, you will surely be resurrected; then you will surely be informed of what you did. And that, for Allah, is easy’” (At-Taghabun 7). 

When reading ISIS propaganda, prepare to see how twisted and warped taking the religion of Islam literally can make you. Read it all right from the latest issue of Dabiq, entitled Break the Cross.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Nuclear Bombs


When I was a kid I was totally obsessed nuclear bombs. I was fascinated by how they exploded and by calculating the range of their destructive effects. I spent many hours watching footage of nuclear tests conducted by the US, the USSR, and other countries. I had always wondered what would happen if a nuclear bomb went off in a major city of the world, like mine. Now I of course do not in any way want that to happen, but the idea has always fascinated me. Well now, thanks to the internet, there is a site where you can detonate virtual nuclear bombs anywhere on earth and see what kind of destructive effects it would have. That site is called Nuclear Secrecy.

If a 50 megaton nuclear bomb detonated in the air over the center of New York City, it would destroy almost the entire city, and it would cause third degree burns to people over almost the entire metropolitan area who were exposed. Almost every building in Manhattan would be obliterated or severely damaged. Radiation fallout would stretch for a hundred miles down wind. Casualties would be approximately 7.6 million, nearly the entire population of New York City. And injuries would be estimated at 4.2 million. The city would be unlivable, and would ultimately have to be abandoned. It would be a scene out of a nightmare. It would be, Armageddon.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Atheist Intersectionality: The Many Hats We Wear


I was just recently thinking about atheist intersectionality: how atheism intersects with my gender, race, place of origins, my politics, ethics, economic philosophy, and views on sexuality. Additionally, the question of whether my atheism should affect my views on these things is an open question. I was inspired by intersectional feminism, which a lot of people, mostly feminists, like talk about. The idea of applying intersectionality itself to other things is a wonderful philosophical venture and one I want to explore here.

We all 'wear many hats' so to speak, and some of these hats are more important to us than others for various reasons. Atheism is very important to me in how I identify myself overall, but depending on the situation, other hats I wear are more important. I want to explore the relationships between these various identities I have with atheism. So let me start by listing some of the many hats I wear as part of my identity. In no particular order:


Atheist: I am an atheist in that I do not believe any gods exist. An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in any gods existing. This is what I like to call bare minimum atheism. It is the minimum requirement for one to properly be called an atheist as I define it. One can go further and declare they know god doesn't exist, but it isn't necessary. I've been an atheist or agnostic all of my life, and I wear the identity proudly, although I'm not always wearing it on my sleeve. You could technically classify me as a moderate atheist on this scale.

Anti-theist: Not only am I an atheist, I go a step further and say I'm an anti-theist. An anti-theist is an atheist who opposes religious belief. Not all atheists are anti-theists. Most atheists are more or less indifferent to religion. I was inspired by the New Atheism movement to oppose religious belief and dedicate myself to decreasing religiosity in the world and increasing secularism and atheism. It is an extremely important motivating factor in my life.

Determinist: I am a determinist in the sense that I reject the notion of libertarian free will and I think that everything in the universe that happens is inevitable given the initial conditions in the big bang. In this view if you were to rewind the universe back to the big bang and play it again, you'd get the same exact results and events every time you did so, ad infinitum. This you can say is part of my metaphysical worldview.

Epiphenominalist: I am an epiphenominalist in that I think whatever the mind is, it is ultimately caused or explained by something going on in the brain. Understanding the brain will most likely unlock the mystery of consciousness, although it is certainly possible a full understanding of the brain will not resolve the hard problem of consciousness. As an epiphenominalist, I reject substance dualism in the sense of dualistic interactionism.

Eternalist: I am an eternalist whose ontology includes all moments of time existing at different areas of spacetime. In this metaphysical worldview the universe is basically a block that is composed of all of spacetime laid out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guest Post: Dr. Karen Garst On Women Beyond Belief


Today I have a guest post by Dr. Karen Garst, author of the forthcoming book Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion:

“I proceeded with my confirmation, and a few weeks later, my cousin passed away. How could god do this? How could god take a wonderful, fun, free-spirited fifteen-year-old and make her go through a horribly painful journey toward death? How could he have not heard the prayers? Seen the recovery Masses? Received the healing thoughts and the good vibes? Everyone said god had dropped an angel on this earth and was claiming her back—as if it were a blessing. As ridiculous as it sounds now, it was what people spoke about every time her death came up in a conversation. In those few months I went from believer, to doubter, to hater. The summer of 1998 was the last time I believed in the anthropomorphized concept of the Catholic god. The handsome white, blond, bearded man with a heart on fire in a white, red, and green gown could no longer shield me from reality.”                    
—Mathilde Reyes


Mathilde Reyes grew up Catholic in Peru. She is one of 22 authors who wrote an essay about her journey away from religion.

Karen L. Garst has compiled these essays into a book entitled “Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion,” which can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Dr. Garst became incensed when the U. S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in 2014. This decision said that because of its religious views, Hobby Lobby, a craft store, would not be obligated to follow the dictates of the Affordable Care Act and provide certain forms of birth control to its employees. “Will we never end the fight for women’s reproductive rights?” Garst stated. Once again, religion has influenced the laws of our land. Politicians cite their religion in supporting restrictions on abortion, banning funding for Planned Parenthood, and a host of other issues that are against women.

The first leaders of the New Atheism movement that arose after 9/11 were men: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. They came with backgrounds of science and philosophy. They launched a renewed effort to show people how destructive religion can be and how all Abrahamic religions are based upon an Iron Age mythology, borrowing from other mythologies of the time.

Dr. Garst wants to add a focus on women and the role this mythology has played in the culture of many countries to denigrate and subordinate women. She states that “Religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality.” And she is right. More and more women atheists are speaking out. And as we all know, if women leave the churches, they will collapse.

She has received support with reviews by Richard Dawkins, Valerie Tarico, Peter Boghossian, Sikivu Hutchinson and other atheist authors.


I encourage you to check out Dr. Garst’s blog at www.faithlessfeminist.com and to pre-order this excellent book.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Mike D On Thomism's Fuzzy Ambiguous God Concept


Today's quote of the day comes from blogger Mike D over at the aunicornist.com replying to blogger Steven Jake on how the god of Thomism is as vague as can be. The god of Thomism to me is incoherent. I can't make sense of its properties. I wrote about this in my critique of Edward Feser's book and Steven Jake responded saying "the doctrine of analogy is precisely predicated on the fact that we don’t know 'how [G]od really is,'" and "an analogous attribution itself necessitates a vague (though not necessarily so mysterious) application—again, that’s what an analogy is." I critiqued that in my response to his criticism of me, but I think Mike D takes the cake is his comment below, which I think mashes Jake's view to a pulp.

It is trivially true that we don't necessarily have to know how the causal entity could work; it doesn't have to be a rigorously established theory, for example. But in the case of the God-concept, you aren't even able to articulate a hypothesis of God's causal mechanisms, precisely because you aren't able to articulate a concept of God in unequivocal terms. It's not simply a matter of God's causal mechanisms being "not clear", but rather a fundamental problem with the confused and ambiguous semantics underpinning the God-concept itself. You have no prayer (excuse the pun) of even theoretically explaining how God can causally interact with the universe or even do anything at all because you can't state in unambiguous, unequivocal terms what God even is in the first place.
What you're stuck with, as a theist, is an unexplainable, unobservable entity whose actions can neither be coherently described nor predicted that nonetheless has causal influence over and/or within the observable universe. That is exactly what magical thinking is: "the attribution of causal or synchronistic relationships between actions and events which seemingly cannot be justified by reason and observation." [Wiki] 
In other words, you've posited an entity whose properties are so ambiguous that no argument or observation could ever be used to falsify a claim that X effect was caused by the entity. You've posited a being that always explains everything, and therefore explains nothing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Both Mainstream Political Options Totally Suck


And now for some political rants....

So this week we learned who the republican and democratic vice presidents are going to be. Donald Trump has picked Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate, and Hillary Clinton picked Virginia senator Tim Kaine as her running mate.

A few thoughts.

First, Mike Pence is a very socially conservative tea party favorite who denies climate change, evolution, and was even against the medical consensus that smoking causes cancer. He's about as bad as Ted Cruz is on religion and socially conservative issues. Earlier this year he signed a bill in Indiana that would have made it mandatory that aborted and miscarried fetuses be given a funeral and are either cremated or buried. Luckily it didn't pass. He supported a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians due to religiously held beliefs, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Then when it became controversial he backtracked on it. But still, you can see where his heart is. Pence is a deeply religious social conservative, and as a secular liberal that scares me. Combine this with Trump's arrogant disregard for facts and strong arm bully tactics, this could be a very frightening combination that I do not want to get near the White House. Trump will almost certainly appoint Supreme Court justices that want to restrict abortion rights, violate the establishment clause, and support "religious freedom" bills.

On the democratic side, things are no better. Senator Kaine is everything Bernie supporting progressives like me were fearful of. He's another boring, status-quo establishment politician, with a track record way too favorable to the donor class. He supported giving president Obama the ability to fast track the TPP (trans-pacific partnership trade agreement) which would, among other things, make it easier for corporations to sue the US government for profit losses due to environmental standards. The Clinton campaign has said he would officially come out against the TPP, but he has reportedly praised the TPP as recently as Thursday, making his opposition to it about as sincere as Clinton's is, which is to say he's full of shit. He signed a repeal of the estate tax in Virginia, something conservatives have been vying for. He has also supported bank deregulations. In all, he's a corporate friendly centrist democrat, far from the progressive that many of us had hoped for.

So where does that leave me? I'm in a fix here. I'm not excited about either ticket. They both suck to be honest. I've been thinking that I should vote for the lesser of two evils but I'm being pulled in the direction of voting on principle. There is the Green Party alternative Jill Stein who basically has the same platform as Bernie Sanders. Many Sanders supporters I know will be voting for her. It is hard to see myself voting for Clinton that serves as a vote against Trump. I've even heard a liberal friend of mine say Trump will be better for the country than Clinton. I'm skeptical about that, but it's possible. I'm going to have to wait until November to make my decision.

The interesting thing is that this year, unlike any other election year we've had in recent history, the republican party's platform is to the left of the democratic party's platform on trade and some economic issues. Perhaps what the democrats need is to get their asses handed to them in the general election so that the party realizes establishment candidates like Clinton and Kaine who aren't real populists aren't what the American people want. This will be an interesting general election.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Religiously Unaffiliated More Likely To Support Same Sex Marriage And Legal Abortion


It's no surprise that belief in god has consequences in how you vote and what views you hold. Given how the religiously unaffiliated are now the single largest voting block in the US, as well as the fastest growing, this will steer the country in a more liberal direction on social issues in the future. We're even beginning to see that as some Republicans are starting to soften up to issues like homosexuality for example. As a social liberal, I can only see this as good. Here is some of the poll data courtesy of PEW regarding the views of the unaffiliated.

The religiously unaffiliated vote overwhelmingly democratic:


They are much more likely to think abortion should be legal and favor same sex marriage than the religiously affiliated and general public:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

America Is A Christian Nation?


I came across this video from a YouTube channel called Counter Arguments. There are some really nice videos on that channel, well produced and edited, and I agree with almost everything I've seen so far. Here is one video on the counter argument to the claim "America is a Christian nation." Please check out his videos and YouTube channel.




EXTRA: Here's another one on the nonsense spewed out by professional Islamic obscurantist Reza Aslan.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Nation Ruled By Science Wouldn't Be A Terrible Idea, If Done Right


Recently there were several articles criticizing a tweet by famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about an idea for a virtual country called Rationalia with a single line constitution that all policy should be based on the weight of evidence:


For an evidentialist like me who thinks the justification of a conclusion depends solely on the evidence for it, this seems like a good idea. Who wouldn't want to live in a society where policy is based on evidence? Well, lot's of people apparently. Now mind you, Twitter has a 140 character limitation, and offers little room for nuance. So the details of Tyson's idea aren't able to be hashed out on such a platform. But for someone who just wrong a lengthy blog post about how we should infer ontology and who actively supports applying scientific thinking to society's problems, I can offer some insights and a critique on how such a country could in theory work, and in the process shut down many of the strawmen arguments made about such a view.

Over at New Scientist Jeffrey Guhin makes several mistakes in his critique of Tyson in an article called, A rational nation ruled by science would be a terrible idea. First he immediately calls Tyson's idea "scientism." 

“Scientism” is the belief that all we need to solve the world’s problems is – you guessed it – science. People sometimes use the phrase “rational thinking”, but it amounts to the same thing. If only people would drop religion and all their other prejudices, we could use logic to fix everything.

Now it is true that Tyson has been accused of scientism in the past, so I cannot defend Tyson on this, as I myself reject it in its strong form. But, there are two different kinds of scientism, strong and weak. Here are the differences:

Strong scientism: the view that science alone can render truth about the world and reality
Weak scientism: the view that science is the most reliable method to render truth about the world and reality, but one among many methods that can render truth.

There are various definitions of strong and weak scientism, and no necessary agreement on them among philosophers and scientists, but that's how I define them. Given weak scientism, no one is forced to think science is the sole way to solve the world's problems or the only thing that can count as "evidence." And with that, this critique disappears.

Next Guhin moves onto flaws in science itself. Scientists have irrational biases he says, and this could lead them to mislead us. Sure, we all have cognitive biases, and scientists are not in any way immune to this defect. But the scientific method takes into consideration these inherent cognitive biases and employs methods like double blind peer review to correct for them. In a society like Rationalia which emphasizes scientific thinking, presumably any problems that exist in science, like a lack of funding, or issues with the peer review process, will have special dedications reserved for fixing them. Why would we assume that the problems that exist in science today in societies that do not privilege scientific research and its findings to determine policy would persist in a society that does? In Rationalia scientific funding would take precedent over many other forms of funding, like the insane corporate welfare and military industrial complexes we have in the modern US.

The Big Picture Talk


I'm about two-thirds of the way done reading Sean Carroll's latest book The Big Picture. It's a fascinating read that I recommend every atheist, naturalist, skeptic, and humanist get their hands on. Heck, every theist and pantheist should get their hands on it, since it would undoubtedly challenge many of their views and answer some of their questions about naturalism. This is a talk Carroll did at Google not long ago that was very similar to the talk he gave in New York last May that I attended where he summarizes many of the points of his book. I haven't gotten to the last past of the book yet where Carroll goes into morality and I think I'm going to disagree with what he says, mainly because he rejects any notion of objective morality, which I support. Anyway, here's his talk if you haven't seen it.

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